A quick search for “VPN” in the Apple app store will reveal hundreds of apps claiming to be the best VPN for iPhone. Pretty much any iPhone or iPad VPN can hide your IP address, but the best VPNs for iOS can do much more to improve your privacy, security, evade censorship, and unblock geo-locked content like Netflix and Hulu.
An iPhone VPN app is in most cases indistinguishable from an iPad VPN app. Any iOS VPN that works on one should work fine on the other, so we’ll cover both in this article.
We’ve curated our list of the best VPNs for iPhone and iPad based on the following criteria:
- Easy-to-use iOS client available in the App Store
- Support for multiple versions of iOS
- OpenVPN, IKEv2, or L2TP protocol
- Fast speeds
ExpressVPN’s app will run on iOS 7 and newer and is protected by their “no-fuss 30-day money-back guarantee” so you can try it risk-free. It can be installed on iPhones, iPads and even the iPod Touch. The company operates VPN servers in over 78 countries and does not limit your bandwidth or the number of times you can switch servers. One of the best features is their logging policy stating that they don’t keep records of your traffic while connected to their servers. They also receive some bonus points for accepting many different payment methods: all the major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and others.
ExpressVPN is fast, great at protecting privacy and works to unblock geo-restricted apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, BBC iPlayer and just about every other geo-blocked service we have tested. It will also work in countries like Turkey and China where many other VPN services have been blocked.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
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NordVPN requires iOS 9 or newer, but offers some great features for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. The app is easy to install and use, and has an extensive, global network of VPN servers to choose from. As an added bonus, NordVPN allows P2P traffic through their VPNs without limiting bandwidth, so it’s popular for torrenting. They also accept alternative methods of payment like bitcoins for their rather affordable service.
A single subscription allows you to connect up to six devices at the same time. If you want a value-for-money option with plenty of servers, good privacy protection features, reasonable speeds and works well at unblocking geo-restricted content like Netflix, then Nord is a good choice as an iOS VPN. NordVPN has recently been able to evade China’s Great Firewall and will work in other countries which actively block VPNs including the UAE.
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Read our full review of NordVPN
IPVanish is a no-logs VPN service that utilizes military-grade encryption and a zero-logs policy to ensure both privacy and security. Features like unlimited P2P traffic, anonymous torrenting, a SOCKS5 web proxy, and unlimited server switching are just the beginning. IPVanish lets you connect up to five devices simultaneously with unlimited bandwidth. IPVanish owns and operates its own servers rather than renting them, as is the status quo, ensuring you can always find a fast, uncongested connection.
While not as adept at unblocking video streaming sites as others on this list, IPVanish is a favorite among Kodi users thanks to its easily navigable interface and ability to work with any Kodi addon. If you need an iPhone or iPad VPN to use with Kodi, IPVanish is a top contender.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
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VyprVPN is one of the few providers to own and operate all of its own servers and data centers. That means you get blazing fast speeds across all 70+ server locations. All connections are 256-bit encrypted, and there’s no data cap or bandwidth limit. VyprVPN offers three tiers with two, three, and five simultaneous connections.
VyprVPN excels at bypassing censorship, whether you’re in China or just stuck behind a firewall at the office. You can also use it to unblock geo-locked sites and apps from abroad, including Netflix US. VyprVPN is the only provider on this list to prohibit torrenting on its network so torrent users should look elsewhere.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
CyberGhost makes a slick, friendly VPN app that allows you to choose a server not just based on location, but based on how you plan to use the VPN. For example, the app will automatically select the best server for streaming Netflix or P2P filesharing, taking out the guesswork that comes with most other VPNs. It can also unblock BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime, among other streaming channels.
CyberGhost has ramped up expansion and now boasts over 1,000 servers in 60 countries. Every connection is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an optional kill switch that halts all internet traffic should the VPN connection drop. The provider keeps no logs of your activity while connected.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Why do you need a VPN?
It doesn’t really matter what device you’re using to access the internet. When online, if you want to…
- hide your internet traffic from your internet service provider
- use unsecured, public wi-fi for any type of secure communication
- add an extra layer of security for online communications
- access to any content that is geo-blocked
… then you need a VPN on whatever device you use to get online. Fortunately, you have a variety of options and price ranges to choose from.
Best VPN for iPad?
Because both iPhones and iPads operate on the iOS operating system, what works best on one will likely work best on the other as well. Some VPN providers make specialized tablet versions of their apps for iPad users, but even those that don’t should be able to use the iPhone VPN app with all of the same features and functions. Therefore, we don’t distinguish between the best VPN for iPhone and the best VPN for iPad. They all work equally well on iOS devices.
A special note for iOS Netflix users
As you may know, Netflix has implemented an overseas VPN ban that prevents users abroad from accessing US, UK, and Canadian content through the Netflix iOS app. While there are a few VPNs that are not affected by this ban, only three on our list are compatible with the Netflix app on iOS devices: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and NordVPN.
Can I use a free VPN for iOS?
A bunch of supposedly free VPN apps for iOS are listed on the App Store that aren’t actually VPNs. Hola is one such “service”. Instead of connecting your computer to a VPN server, Hola connects your computer to a community-powered P2P network to provide supposedly anonymous internet access. The problem here is that the actual provider has no direct control over any of the nodes in the network as each node is a privately owned computer of one of it’s 55 million members. The lack of strong encryption makes your traffic vulnerable to interception or inspection by any node and, worst of all, your internet bandwidth is sold to third parties who may or may not also have access to your computer’s resources through Hola’s software. This has all the makings of a botnet and should be avoided at all costs.
Tor does something similar, but uses very strong encryption and does not sell anyone’s bandwidth. Tor’s software also does not grant anyone else access to the resources of the device that it’s running on or make your device available to anyone else for any kind of misuse or abuse.
Finally, most of the supposedly free VPNs include features that most users will want to avoid. Things like injecting advertisements into your web browser traffic, using weak or even no encryption, selling your personal information or detailed logs of your internet activities to third parties of their choosing, and even installing unwanted software on your devices, like adware, viruses, trojans, botnet clients, and other forms of malware.
What to do when there is no iOS app
If you don’t want to use the provider’s app, or if your VPN service doesn’t come with an iOS app, there is a VPN tool built into iOS that can be manually configured to connect to your VPN provider’s server of choice. It’s a fairly straightforward setup, but you will need the following information before you begin:
- Supported protocol – listed as “Type” in iOS
- VPN server address
- Your User ID and password
- If a certificate is required, you will need to get the certificate from your VPN provider
- Proxy details, if any
- Or just the URL of the proxy server
To start, simply get into your Settings app and follow these instructions:
- Scroll down and tap on General, then scroll down and tap on VPN.
- Tap VPN Configuration to get into the configuration settings.
- Choose the most secure protocol that the VPN server supports. OpenVPN and IKEv2 are preferred, but L2TP are almost as secure. PPTP has been proven to provide very weak encryption but provides a faster connection if speed is more important than security.
- Give the connection a description so that you will know the provider as well as the server that it will connect to. Then you will need to enter the server address provided by your VPN service provider. If a certificate is required then the provider will have one ready for you. (NordVPN is one that provides a certificate for the IKEv2 protocol only. However, NordVPN’s iOS app uses OpenVPN by default for supported versions of iOS, so you’re better off simply using their app instead.)
- If there’s no certificate option, you will need to enter your username and password. For Authentication, select Username and enter the details below. Your VPN provider will also have a shared secret key for you to enter. Make sure you get it from the provider’s manual VPN configuration instructions.
- Finally, if you have to connect to the internet through a proxy, then you should already have the proxy information. If you don’t know what this is, then leave it off. Tap the blue Done button at the top right of the screen.
- You will now have a VPN slider as well as the VPN description listed on this screen. Simply slide the switch to the on position and watch to make sure the connection is successful. When the status shows “Connected”, you’re done. You can now surf privately and securely.
Note that manually setting up an iPhone VPN this way will encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address, but you won’t get many of the other useful features found in the apps like kill switches, leak protection, and automatic public wi-fi protection.
How to connect several Apple devices to the VPN at the same time
Apple junkie? No problem! All of the iOS VPNs we recommended above allow for several simultaneous connections so you can connect your iPhone, iPad, Macbook, and anything else in your house to the VPN at the same time. This is also useful if you share your VPN subscription with family or roommates.
Here are how many devices you can connect on each VPN with a base tier subscription:
- ExpressVPN: 3 simultaneous connections
- NordVPN: 6 simultaneous connections
- IPVanish: 5 simultaneous connections
- VyprVPN: 3 simultaneous connections
- CyberGhost: 5 simultaneous connections
If that’s not enough for you, you might consider configuring the VPN connection on your wifi router. A wifi router only counts as one device, and you can connect as many devices to it as you need and route them through the VPN. This also works for devices that don’t intuitively support VPNs, such as Apple TV.
If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, we recommend ExpressVPN’s pre-configured VPN routers. ExpressVPN makes the best VPN-enabled router firmware in the market. You will need an ExpressVPN subscription to use it, however.
Otherwise, you can configure a VPN on your own with a compatible router. Some routers come with firmware that supports VPN connections, and others don’t. If your router doesn’t support VPNs, look around to see if you can replace the firmware with an open-source alternative like DD-WRT or Tomato.
Note that you should use extreme caution when flashing new firmware to a router. Using firmware that’s incompatible with your exact router model or making a mistake during the flashing process could brick your router and leave it permanently damaged. The exact process varies from router to router.